September 12, 2001
FM Peres: Our hearts are truly with the United States today, with the thousands of families whose eyes are wet with tears. We will do whatever we can, whatever we are asked, wholeheartedly, unhesitatingly. However, let us not put ourselves at the forefront of things. …
In my opinion, the United States has to lead the fight against terrorism. Israel does not have to be in the frontline of the battle. Israel should not place itself in the center of events, when this time, the focus is a danger second only to the nuclear threat, almost as bad as Pearl Harbor. I am confident that the US is capable of waging this war successfully. We will do our part, in proportion, because it is clear that this war involves the entire world.
Q: Isn’t there a danger, Mr. Peres, that after a few days, after this terrible shock, the Americans will come and say that this has happened to them because the US was so supportive and identified with the State of Israel?
FM Peres: There are always dangers. But I don’t think that the US will give in because someone says something this or that. It wouldn’t surrender its freedom of action or hesitate as to whose side it is on. The way I see it, this attack was not only on the United States – it was an attack on civilization, on democracy, on our way of life, which is not the law of the jungle. The United States has in the past stood up for the cause of freedom and humanity, and it will do so now as well. There is no choice, since, essentially, a few crazy individuals can decide to destroy the lives of tens of thousands of people. For example, in the United States, in Oklahoma City, there was an act of horrendous terrorism, in which 181 were killed —
Q: That was domestic terrorism —
FM Peres: There is no such thing as domestic terrorism or foreign terrorism. There is terrorism — it is carried out by the insane and is global in nature.
Q: This insanity is so global that we have seen Palestinians in East Jerusalem and elsewhere celebrating by throwing candies —
FM Peres: They don’t understand what they’re doing. They don’t understand that, sooner or later, we will take this weapon away from them. We have to go country by country, very systematically, identify those which support and host terrorism and declare them to be terrorist states. Orderly and very systematic work is necessary — without compassion, without ambiguity, and without concessions. All of the world’s clerics must be approached – rabbis, qadis, priests – and asked to take a stand and make clear declarations against these heinous suicide terrorists. It was suicide terrorists who got on these planes, killed the pilots and cause indescribable carnage. The world’s moral leaders must take a clear stand on this issue.
Q: If the Palestinians are still engaged in terrorism, aren’t there conclusions that have to be made with regard to our relationship with them?
FM Peres: I think the Palestinians, not us, should reach some conclusions of their own. It’s like having to quit smoking. You get to the point where you either stop, or fall victim to lung cancer. It’s the same with the Palestinians. They should have made a statement last night that they are renouncing terrorism. The whole world will stand against them if they fail to do so. Many people can now understand not only the meaning of terrorism, but also the meaning of suicide terrorism. This is a whole new form of terrorism the likes of which we have never known.
Q: And when the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian terrorist groups all take part in terrorism against Israel, some say ‘There’s no reason to speak with them for now, its not possible to talk with them, since they’re on the other side’ —
FM Peres: It could be that, if they continue [their terrorism], then there really is no reason to speak with them. But they themselves say that they want to stop the terrorism. That’s what we’re talking with them about.
You see, up until now, the entire world was organized into armies and enemies. Today, the classic armies remain, yet the classic enemies have practically vanished. In their place, there are now new threats which we were unknown to us — primary among them is the threat of terrorism. Strategy, tactics and organized forces have yet to be developed against terrorism. The fundamental and true conclusion is that a strategy must be developed, and military and security organizations must be established which will prevent terrorism.
This also clarifies to quite a few people why there is no choice but to take preventative actions, since once these insane people are airborne with knives, they constitute a global threat. Comprehensive conclusions must also be reached regarding the funding of terrorism, its sources, sponsorship, support, and other aspects. There must be a systematic approach. Just as conventional armies have been built, so too an army for the war against terrorism must be built. But with one difference. This army must be global in nature, since terrorism can appear anywhere, even if it isn’t invited or known to be present.
Q: Another question which we dealt with extensively before the attacks in the United States was your upcoming meeting with Arafat. Is it still on the agenda?
FM Peres: Arafat was told yesterday that this is an opportunity for him to abandon the world of terrorism. This is the true test. He cannot hold on to both at the same time — to be engaged in terrorism while at the same time being accepted internationally. No one can. Yesterday, in the United States, this choice was made clear cut, and no room for compromise now remains. I hope the Palestinians reach the proper conclusion.
Q: And until then?
FM Peres: There is no ‘until then’. Yesterday, the countdown began – the countdown to an end to terrorism. If the terrorism stops, we will enter into negotiations. We are not interested in violence for its own sake. We are interested in an end to the violence in order to renew our contacts.
Q: So, in the meantime, the new policy is that there will be no dialogue, even about ending the violence, but rather, there must first be an end to the violence and only then a beginning of the dialogue?
FM Peres: I didn’t say that. I said that the Palestinians themselves have an opportunity to pursue a new policy. If they want to talk about how to end the violence, we are ready to help them end the violence. We are not giving anyone the ‘cold shoulder’. But the Palestinians must declare that they are giving a comprehensive ‘cold shoulder’ to terrorism in all its forms.
|Excerpts of interviews with FM Peres – Sept 11, 2001|
|Interview with FM Peres on CNN – Sept 11, 2001|
|Israel Reacts to Attacks on US – Sept 11, 2001|